I took a break from bike riding last week, in favor of some backyard basketball. I didn’t realize how much I missed the trail riding until I got back to it. So many good things are immediately available on the trail: sunshine, breeze (even if there isn’t one), birds, trees, powerful colors and sounds. Time with my son in nature.
Inevitably, we all spend too much time indoors. I’m among the most guilty, having a job that requires large amounts of face time with the computer display.
I’m going to try to do it differently this week: that time outdoors will be higher on the priority list. I’m sure that being among things that are real and beautiful can only bring a good perspective to everything else.
Auditions for adults and children can be scheduled at any time for December Lessons and Carols and Spring 2011 Concert: www.musicatfirst.org
Sunday Worship at First Congregational, Bristol, CT is our second Sunday in “summer mode,” featuring our Summer Singers. This was a great success last week, with several enthusiastic singers. Are you a frustrated choral singer and would like to join in? Join us in the choir loft at 9:00 to sing a simple anthem!
Today I release for you my second composition for piano, Reflection.
I wrote Reflection a couple of days after Christmas in 2008. It was lightly snowing outside. A simple repeating bass line was all I started with – one step up, a half step more, then back. The melody came together and its development, and soon after that, the quiet middle section.
That time between the holidays is often one of personal reflection of the past year, and that is surely where my head was – hence the title. The middle section of the piece has a quiet yearning for comfort; the following recapitulation and ending are a soaring beauty, showing the joy and possibility that lie ahead. Of course, none of this was planned! The piece wrote itself, as all the others – I just helped.
I found myself thinking this morning about early influences and inspirations and how they all come together over time to make us who we are. The visual that I have today is of an “archeological dig” within my being – where the the layers of ideas and experiences pile on top of each other and form a unique whole.
The video below is one of my earliest influences leading to the discovery of writing for piano – “Thanksgiving” from George Winston’s piano CD, December. Very good friends of our family, in fact, my Godfather and his wife, gave me this CD when I was a teenager, right at the time I was starting my first church job (in their church, ironically). As time passes, much of the music I found so powerful and moving in the past seems less powerful, yet this once piece remains one of those that I simply must stop and take in. It is so beautiful, it hurts!
My wife and I met on this day, years ago, through the musical connections we had at the time. It was a powerful moment, because we each had a preconceived notion of what the other would be like – she the “group president” … I the “organist” – and were shocked by the immediate connection.
We were talking last evening about how sharing music is something we have often taken for granted, and how important it is (and what a gift it is) that we share such similar tastes in the music we make and listen to. We listened to several songs by Sting, who has woven through much of our life together. We talked about some of the great choral music experiences we have had and the dreams of music to be made in the future.
I often put music and God in the same category, calling music a gift from God. But, in truth, I think they are one in the same. Music is miraculous in its creation, and has caused powerful connections and brought love to many. It can only be divine.
Yesterday, of course, was Father’s Day, and I found myself caught in between being a Dad and being a son. It wasn’t a bad thing: I got a wonderful card from my wife and sons, and yes, I did partake in the classic Father’s Day avoidance of most responsibilities. I also took our youngest to visit my Dad and take him and my Mom out to lunch. As we talked and enjoyed each other’s company, I considered briefly how powerful it was to have three generations sit together.
In the end, though, I thought: Should there really be a “day” for Dads? I almost feel funny celebrating it, because it is just part of who I am. Not every moment of fatherhoood is pretty, not every moment is easy, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like there has been a pretty or easy moment for a good while. But, these young people watch everything I do, listen to everything I say (even if they don’t show it occasionally!), and learn to be adults by my example. It is awesome! Tough, complicated, yes – but I would not trade a second of it for something less fulfilling.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this is the first of my weekly posts that will include downloads of my piano music.
Gratitude is the first piano piece that I wrote, on Columbus Day weekend in 2008. We were at Cape Cod, and the family had gone out for a walk and I stayed behind to play the piano. As with all of my writing, I just started improvising, and suddenly realized that something special was going on. Finally, after a mad scramble for some sort of manuscript paper (in this case, the last page of a piano book actually had some!), a piece of music was born.
As all of my piano pieces, Gratitude is brief, simple, and comforting. There is a small amount of ornamentation in the repeated theme, a very brief diversion, then a return to the main theme. I played this piece in worship at First Congregational, Bristol, on a Sunday that we celebrated giving — hence the title. However (and this part continues to be amazing to me), there is no question in my mind that the piece was about gratitude, or quiet thankfulness, even before the opportunity to use it and title it came into being.
This piece is very important to me, not just because it was the first, but because it sums up how I feel about this still-new drive to write music. God continues to plant in me ideas, then confirm them by titling them in a strange, roundabout way. I do my best to stay open to the “happening” of it, and am grateful to be the conduit.
My initial thinking in starting this website (and then this blog) was one of promotion – to promote my work at church, my concert work, and to sell my CDs and piano music. All of those except the latter happen on other sites (as linked above), so www.scottlamlein.com was to be the home of my recent piano compositions and their recordings.
All that changed when I started writing this blog. One of the things I feel constantly conflicted about is the struggle between music as art and music as business. It is expected, for survival in this world, that at least 1/3 of our time is used to make the money needed to sleep 1/3 of the time and “live” during the remaining 1/3. When music is part of your vocation as well as your primary passion, these lines become very blurry.
When I began my concert work in earnest six years ago, so began what felt like a never-ending quest to “turn music into cash.” Strangely, the concerts that are the most rewarding and enjoyable and “real” are the ones that either did not pay or paid very little.
What’s the lesson in all this? Still not sure! However, I have learned recently that sharing my gift as a musician, both directly through the music, and indirectly through this writing, is at the center of why I do it. And so, I have decided to begin releasing several of my piano compositions and recordings without charge. A sample of my first piano composition, “Gratitude,” is below, and tomorrow I will post the full recording and sheet music for download. I’ll continue doing this weekly. Additionally, if interested parties contact me looking to own what I affectionately call “the whole pile,” I’ll be glad to make that available for free.
From the start of my composing, I’ve been very aware that it is well beyond my control, something I am clearly a vessel for, so I am excited and grateful to share it.